Readers and Tweeters Shed Light on Vaccine Trials and Bias in Health Care

Letters to the Editor is a periodic feature. We welcome all comments and will publish a selection. We edit for length and clarity and require full names.


On the ‘Subject’ of Vaccine Trial Participants

In the piece about the AstraZeneca vaccine trial subject who suffered severe spinal cord inflammation, that person was repeatedly referred to as a “patient” (“NIH ‘Very Concerned’ About Serious Side Effect in Coronavirus Vaccine Trial,” Sept. 14). Once someone is enrolled in a trial, everything that happens to them is because they are a “subject,” not a patient. A patient is someone getting health care; a subject is willingly participating to be exposed to something that has nothing to do with their health or wellness. Please use the right term so that the reader can be reminded that the person was participating in this trial. Nice piece.

— Robin Chalmers, Atlanta


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For Each Critically Ill COVID Patient, a Family Is Suffering, Too

The weeks of fear and uncertainty that Pam and Paul Alexander suffered as their adult daughter struggled against COVID-19 etched itself into the very roots of their hair, leaving behind bald patches by the time she left the hospital in early May.

Tisha Holt had been transferred by ambulance from a smaller hospital outside Nashville, Tennessee, to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on April 14, when her breathing suddenly worsened and doctors suspected COVID-19. Within several days her diagnosis had been confirmed, her oxygen levels were dropping, and breathing had become so excruciating that it felt like her “lungs were wrapped in barbed wire,” as Tisha describes it.

Vanderbilt doctors put the 42-year-old on a mechanical ventilator, and the next few weeks passed in a blur for her parents, who waited helplessly for the next update about the eldest of their three children.

“That’s when it got really, really bad,” Pam

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